Latest chapter in the Fan-isode “It’s About Time.” For the complete story visit link
Disclaimer: I don’t own House. David Shore and Fox do. Dang it.
“It’s About Time”
Cuddy had only talked with Jacob’s dad for a couple of minutes before she was sure that what had happened was all just a big mix-up. In fact, if blame had to be given it would fall also on Jacob’s mother’s shoulders. The father had expected the mom to pick up Jacob only 30 minutes after he had left Jacob sleeping peacefully in his bed. The next-door neighbor had left earlier than normal as well in order to make it to an early morning lecture with a special guest professor. It had been merely a perfect storm as far as the dad was involved. Cuddy now needed to talk with the mom to find out why she hadn’t come, but Nathan, Jacob’s dad, assured Cuddy that his ex-wife, Annie, was a great mom. Their relationship hadn’t survived under multiple strains, but they both loved their son and put his best interests first.
The father was still distraught at learning of his son’s failing health. Jacob had been in perfect health, except for the allergies, when he left the house this morning and now he had just endured major abdominal surgery and was looking at possible dialysis and a life-long illness based on what the doctors were saying. Nathan sat on the couch in Cuddy’s office and tried to keep his voice from breaking as he asked again when he could see his son.
“He’s still coming out of surgery, Mr. Peerson,” Cuddy said softly. “As soon as he’s back in his room they’ll page me. I apologize for keeping you from him, but surely you realize that I needed to find out the circumstances behind how the police found him.”
“I do understand and I still can’t believe what could…” Nathan’s voice faltered. His shoulders shook but he keep things under control. “I’m so sorry.”
“I know. We’re still trying to locate your ex-wife. Do you have any idea where she could be?”
“None, if she’s not at work,” Nathan took another kleenex from the box on the coffee table. “She’s been working two jobs. I’ve called both places. She finished a shift at 7am and left her first job. Her second job doesn’t have her scheduled for two more days.”
“Yes, we just need to wait. Your son is stable for now.”
“We thought we had things worked out,” Nathan said, not hearing Cuddy at all. “Annie stayed home with Nathan when he was born. I was working at a private engineering firm. After two years, Annie wanted to get back into the real world. I was having issues with my boss at the time and so we decided I’d quit my job and Annie would start selling real estate again. She had been a hugely successful agent; selling big houses to rich people. One commission would take care of our expenses for months. It was perfect. For about ten months.”
Cuddy nodded. She didn’t say anything. She just waited patiently, sensing Nathan’s need to talk.
“Then the real estate market tanked. The economy bombed and she couldn’t sell a house to anyone. I couldn’t get rehired anywhere and we started fighting. We blamed each other for everything and just kept waiting for something worse to happen. It did. The divorce was finalized only a month or so ago. We are both working our butts off to keep the house. It’s perfect for Jacob; school, friends, everything. I got custody because of the way my insurance at my job works, but we share custody. We do always seem to agree on things where Jacob is concerned. I just can’t imagine where Annie is. This is not like her at all.”
“We’ll find her, Mr. Peerson, and in the meantime I can assure you that the best diagnostic doctors anywhere are searching for the answer right now.” Cuddy smiled as she thought about one of those doctors. “And I can guarantee you that the head doctor, Dr. House, won’t stop until he finds the right answer. It’s a curse and a blessing.”
The phone rang and Cuddy got up to answer it. She smiled as she listened to the person on the other line then quickly put the receiver down. “Mr. Peerson, that was Dr. Chase. He says your son is doing fine and is coming out of the anesthesia. I’ll walk you to his room right now.”
Nathan leapt up, nodding. He grabbed a bag that had been laying on the floor next to the couch and followed Cuddy out of the office.
House waited until the fellows were seated around the conference table before he began. He had just crossed out Polycystic Kidney Disease on the whiteboard and had turned around to face his team. Just then he heard the distinct click-click-click of high heels on hospital floors. He looked through the glass walls of the department and saw Cuddy had exited the elevators and was walking towards the patient’s room. A man in his early 30’s walked with her. House saw the shock of blond hair and the pronounced limp and knew that he was on the right path toward figuring out what was wrong with the boy. He also knew how Taub was able to find the dad.
“So, Taub,” House said without taking his eyes of Cuddy and the dad. “Was Jacob’s dad also holding a sign?”
Taub, not having any idea on what House was referencing, simply chose to ignore House. It was often the safest, easiest way to deal with him. Usually. This time Taub’s risk paid off and House dropped the mocking.
House continued to watch until Cuddy looked towards him. They simply nodded at each other. Cuddy pointed the direction of Jacob’s room and House nodded again. He then held up his wrist and pointed to his watch. Cuddy gave another nod and then turned back towards Mr. Peerson. She compassionately put her arm around his back and guided him down the hallway towards his son’s room. House turned back to his team to see all eyes staring at him. Taub and Chase looked curious, but Foreman had a smug smile. House’s brain tried to figure out the reason behind the smile, but Chase’s question interrupted his thoughts.
“What was that all about?” Chase asked.
“Can’t tell you,” House replied. “We have a secret code for our secret club and if I told you I’d have to kill you. And don’t try to pry it out of Wilson either.”
“What is the membership requirement,” Chase teased. “Abusing a friendship for over ten years?”
“It’s 15 years, smart ass, so you’ve got to wait a few more years to join,” House snarked. He sneered at Chase who simply looked back in amusement.
“That’s Jacob’s dad,” Taub informed Chase and Foreman. “Cuddy wanted to speak with him first.”
“Judging by the lack of police officers his story on why he abandoned his own kid must have passed the Cuddy test,” House said. He lowered his head. He wondered what medical information Cuddy had acquired from that talk, but knowing Cuddy she had first gotten the explanation for the behavior. “Foreman, as soon as I enlighten all of you on the kid, go talk to the dad and see what additional medical history you can get.”
“Cuddy’s got something else to do soon,” House interrupted. He stood straight and cleared his throat. He caught a quick glimpse of that smug smile on Foreman again, before Foreman’s face went blank. It almost made House loose his train of thought, but fortunately
House’s metaphor train was packing some extra steam.
“It’s homecoming.” House started. He began to walk around the table. “The student body officers, who no one really likes but will be signing the paychecks for most of the them, have organized some fun, school spirit activities; the best of which is the Mud Pit Tug O’ War between the cheerleaders and the football defensive line.” House stopped walking to look at his team. They all still sat there staring at him, but Chase and Taub now sported a smile, because any House metaphor than involved mud and cheerleaders had to end great.
“At first it doesn’t seem like it should work because the defensive line is clearly bigger than the cheerleaders. Except of course the plus-size they had to let in because she was the dean’s daughter. So people are confused, but then the wise student body president tells the cheerleaders that they can use as many cheerleaders as they want while the football guys can only use five.” He paused and sat down. “So half the cheerleading squad grabs ahold of the long hard rope and begins to pull. Hard.” Chase and Taub looked like they had forgotten that a metaphor was even being given. House smiled wickedly. “Those little cheerleaders in their short skirts pulled all they could but weren’t winning so more cheerleaders grabbed on. Then more. Then more.” Chase actually licked his lips. House hung his head and shook it sadly. “But alas, those big strong boys were too much for the cute little girls, even with Shamu anchoring them, and their little skimpy uniformed perky bodies plunged into the dirty, nasty mud. It oozed everywhere and everyplace.”
“Then what,” Taub asked anxiously in a small voice.
House raised his head and sat up straight, leaning his chair back on its back legs. “That’s the end of the metaphor. Sorry.”
Taub looked disappointed. Foreman laughed at the idiots he called teammates.
Foreman, as usual, put his opinion out first, “Well, one side was clearly bigger than the other side. Like Jacob. Some of his organs seem larger on one side, but that’s just residual swelling from the anaphalaxis.”
House shook his head. “You’re partway there.”
Chase jumped in next. “The cysts were on Jacob’s smaller side. Are those the cheerleaders?”
House nodded. Pleased that his team could decipher his metaphors so well. “So if the uneven sides are not due to anaphylactic shock what’s the reason?” He turned towards Taub. “The answer also appearantly affects his father as well.”
The three men sat in silence until Foreman’s face registered recognition. “Hemihyperplagia,” he said firmly.
House smiled, confirming Foreman’s diagnosis. He motioned to Foreman to continue and explain the metaphor.
“Hemihyperplagia or hemihypertrophy is an abnormal asymmetry between the left and right side of the body. All of us are uneven.”
“Speak for yourself,” House declared.
Foreman continued. “None of us are perfectly symmetrical. But people with hemihyperplagia, while in utero, developed cells that grow unevenly. Sometimes the growth is limited to facial features or limbs, but it can also involve internal organs. Jacob’s right leg is shorter than his left. The organs on his right side were smaller than on the left. If we’d measure more parts we’d probably find more discrepancies.”
“So what about the extra cheerleaders? What is that part?” Taub asked.
This time Chase had also figured out the metaphor. “The extra cheerleaders are the cysts we found and the third kidney. Cells without growth limits continue to grow. The third kidney could be a result of the abnormal cell growth in utero and the cysts on the kidneys are continued results of the cells being whacked.”
“Whacked?” House asked. He simply nodded. “Yes, once the organs formed completely the ‘whacked’ out cells continue to have problems and developed the cysts. And as this kid had growth spurts one side will grow rapidly and the other not so fast. His asymmetry might worsen depending on the ‘whacked out level’ of his cells.”
Foreman shook his head. “Kids with Hemihyperplagia also have an increased risk of childhood tumors and cancer as the abnormal growth issues can apply to everything. And cancer is an abnormal growth of cells.”
House nodded. “Yup. We need to run blood tests for cancer markers and do a full body scan to check for any other growths.”
“Why did those cells burst?” Taub asked.
House put his chair back on the ground and pushed away from the table. “That actually was because of the allergic reaction. The cysts might have been ready to burst anyway, but when his whole body swelled up due to the peanut allergy the cysts burst one by one, like bubble wrap. There was enough on the slightly defective third kidney to put it totally out of commission. That explains the blood in the urine. I wouldn’t be surprised if you find the remnants of a cyst in his stomach as well. That would explain the blood in the vomit.” House walked around the table towards his office. He called instructions over his shoulder. “Foreman, go talk to the dad and see if Nemo had any surgery on his private place when he was a baby. Males with hemihyperplagia often have buried penises, and unfortunately that is not an euphemism for something a whole lot better.” He walked into his office, tossed his sport jacket onto his desk and grabbed his backpack. He came back into the conference room. “Taub and Chase, after you run the body scan and blood work do some measuring to see which form of this thing we’re dealing with. Chase, you can measure the big side. Taub, you, of course, are more suited to measure the smaller side.” He smiled at everyone and then started for the door. “Page me with the results,” he called over his shoulder.
“Where are you going?” Chase asked.
“The Club is meeting. Top secret.”
Chase, Taub and Foreman watched him as he walked out of the office and toward the elevators. House almost had a spring in his step and although they couldn’t prove anything, House seemed happy. Taub turned to look at the other two.
He hesitated for a second before speaking. “I think House is on drugs again.”
“What if he is?” Chase asks.
“I just thought,” Taub stammered. He stood up from the table. “I don’t know. I thought we should do something.”
“Oh, like all the other times we’ve stepped in to help him beat his addictions?” Chase snarked.
“No. I mean. Look. He’s been clean and sober as far as we know for the past year. I thought we should help, you know, help him back on the wagon.” Taub looked from Chase to Foreman.
“I think House is on the wagon he wants to be on right now,” Foreman said. Both Chase and Taub stared at him. He refused to explain. “It’s House’s life. It’s House’s choice.”
Taub shook his head. “I’m going to find out what’s going on. He’s definitely doing something. Foreman, you told me yourself you thought House was going home that night to get stoned. And it doesn’t make sense. After one of the worst experiences of his life what with that patient dying and Cuddy telling him off, he seems…happier. It doesn’t make sense. You two do what you want, but I’m going to do some more investigating.” And with that he walked out of the office to line up Jacob’s scan and blood work.
Chase looked at Foreman. He had worked long enough with Foreman to know when Foreman knew something. Chase waited for Foreman to talk, but Foreman ignored him. Foreman instead gathered up the patient’s file and stood up.
“What wagon is House on?” Chase asked simply.
Foreman said nothing as he walked out of the room to go speak with the dad. Chase watched him leave and wondered just what the hell did he know about House.
House debated whether to go change his clothes for this forced double date he was heading off to, but decided they should just learn to love him as is. He knew Cuddy didn’t expect anything fancy. He had thought about figuring out a fancy date and surprising Cuddy, but he was not going to waste that idea now. He limped to his motorcycle and after strapping his cane in place he mounted his bike and rode over to Cuddy’s house. He didn’t even think about getting a car or having Cuddy drive. He had fantasized about Cuddy riding on the back of his bike, grabbing him tight around the middle, for years. He was finally getting the chance. Now, he just had to convince Cuddy to ride with him. He arrived at her house quickly and right on time. He even got off the bike and limped up to the door, knocking on it like the proper suitor should. He could hear the click of her high heels on the wooden floor and the thought of Cuddy’s shapely legs brought a smile to his face. The smile was still plastered on his face when she opened the big wooden door. She too was smiling when the door opened.
House took a step back and pretended to bow and tip an imaginary hat to her. “Your steed awaits, your highness,” he said in an affected tone. Cuddy laughed.
“Don’t you mean carriage?” Cuddy asked. House shook his head and held onto his smile. A look of understanding washed over Cuddy’s face and she put her hand on House’s arm, pushing him off to the side. She looked beyond him to his motorcycle parked on the street. “Oh, no, mister,” she said, shaking her head emphatically. “That is not going to happen.”
House just looked at her. “You used to love riding with me,” he said, a mischievous grin on his face.
“I was a college student and really stupid.”
“Come on. I promise to be safe,” House said sincerely. “I have two excellent reasons to keep you alive and in one piece.”
Cuddy smiled, taken by his sweet sincerity. “Rachel? And your job?”
“Patty & Selma,” House replied staring pointedly at Cuddy’s chest.
“Of course,” Cuddy sighed.
“Come on, please,” House begged. “It’ll be fun. And I really will be careful.” House kept his clear blue eyes staring at hers and Cuddy admitted to herself that she had wanted to ride on the back of his bike for a long time now as well.
“Okay,” she said. “But you’re insane.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Cuddy smiled relunctantly. House leaned towards her and gave her a soft kiss. The thought that he could do this now did amazing things for his self-confidence. The fact that a woman like Cuddy could return his feelings did more for his pain, physical and mental, than a bucket full of vicodin.
“Let me change my skirt,” she said, opening the door so that House could step inside and wait for her. She went back to her bedroom.
Marina was standing in the living room. She was holding Rachel. Marina smiled warily at House. She clutched Rachel closely to her. She hadn’t been especially fond of Lucas. There was something about Lucas that worried Marina. He seemed like a nice guy, but her daughter had dated someone like him. The boyfriend had been handsome and courteous, but he had ended up beating her daughter up one night in a fit of jealousy. This new man, however, seemed more solid, more sure of himself, but she sensed a sadness and longing in him. Marina knew Cuddy had a huge task ahead of her to rein this one in.
As if House sensed what Marina was thinking of him he spoke to her in Spanish. “No preocupar. Seré seguro.”
Marina smiled a sad smile. “No estoy preocupado sobre la motocicleta. Me preocupo de su corazón.”
“Si,” House said softly. “Yo tambien.”
Marina looked at House for a long time, sizing him up again. She nodded briefly then gave him a full smile. “Rachel, can you say hi to Doctor House?”
Rachel had been watching House since he entered. She turned to look at Marina, then burrowed her face into Marina’s shoulder.
“I have that affect on most women,” House said, deflecting the slight rejection. He would just be patient with her. Cuddy came out from the back room at that moment. She had put on a pair of black slacks and black heels with the light pink twinset she had already been wearing. She had a scrunchy on her wrist and was pulling her hair back into a thick pony tail. After securing her ponytail with the scrunchy she stepped over to Rachel and took her from Marina.
Rachel squealed as her mommy tickled her tummy. She threw her arms around Cuddy’s neck and placed sloppy wet kisses against her cheek. Cuddy laughed back at her daughter then wiped her cheek. “I want to keep these kisses, Rachel, so I’m going to put them in my pocket,” she said so she wouldn’t hurt her daughter’s feelings by wiping off her face. Rachel beamed.
“Remind me not to kiss that cheek tonight,” House mumbled.
“Stop it,” Cuddy chastised. She turned to Marina. “Okay, we’ll just be gone a couple of hours. I promise to be home by 7.”
Marina nodded and smiled. “No problem, Dr. Cuddy,” she said, taking Rachel back after Cuddy had given her daughter a few more kisses and a tight hug. “We will be fine. Have a nice dinner.”
Cuddy smiled at Marina then gave her little girl another kiss. “See you soon, Rachel,” she said. Then she grabbed House’s arm and led him out the door. “Let’s get going so I can get back and put Rachel to bed.”
House didn’t argue. He was hoping that after Cuddy put Rachel to be she’d put him to bed, too. He thought maybe even a bath could be involved. He smiled. “By all means,” he said as the two left her house and made their way to his bicycle. He opened a backpack on his bike and handed a helmet to Cuddy. He mounted the bike then held it steady so Cuddy could climb on. He turned back over his shoulder and looked at Cuddy. She looked completely alluring in the helmet with her dark curls around her face. Her pony tail hung down her back.
“I’m going to have massive helmet hair,” she said, positioning herself on the back of the bike. She smiled.
“That’s fine,” he said. “It’ll look just like the bed head you’re going to have tonight.” He smiled back at her then pulled his own helmet on. “Hang on.”
She encircled his waist with her arms and pressed herself into his back. It felt wonderful and very familiar. House started up the bike and with a quick squeeze on Cuddy’s arms he started out towards the restaurant and their first official date.
Nathan sat by his son’s bedside. Jacob was in and out of consciousness. He was still heavily medicated for the pain of the abdominal surgery and his little body was using all of its energy to fight whatever was happening to him. Nathan had brought a stuffed animal and blanket from home for his son, hoping to make him feel more comfortable, but Jacob wasn’t alert enough for it to make a difference. Instead, Nathan held the blanket in his hands as he watched his son. He hadn’t thought things could get worse with his family situation, but he’d take twice as much heartache from his ex-wife and the divorce if it meant Jacob would be well. The police hadn’t located Annie yet, and although he hadn’t to admit it he was concerned for her well-being now too. She was a great mother. They had had issues with each other and how they tried to live together, but their unconditional love for their son kept the most vengeful of the demons locked up. They had decided to raise Jacob together, lovingly, even if they couldn’t live together anymore. Nathan had figured that the shorter leg might have been some genetic anomaly after Jacob was born the same way, but had no idea that it might indicate a larger problem. Now the doctors had said they were testing for cancer and cysts and unchecked growth cells. The terminology had overwhelmed him and finally Dr. Chase had said simply they were going to run some more tests and do another MRI to rule out some other diagnoses. Nathan had nodded and watched as they wheeled Jacob out of the room. He had been back only about 30 minutes and still hadn’t awoken from the latest round of sedatives. Just then, Jacob stirred in his bed, breaking Nathan’s reverie, but he was only trying to get comfortable again. He had been awake for about ten minutes after the surgery and then had given in to the exhaustion. Nathan softly stroked Jacob’s arm and then took his small hand in his own. Bringing it to his lips, he kissed it softly. Silent tears ran down Nathan’s face as he held Jacob’s hand to his cheek; the beeping of the monitors making the only sound in the still room.
Taub quietly entered House’s office. He had checked the parking lot to make sure House’s motorcycle was gone. He had even paid the front receptionist in the lobby to page him if House returned unexpectedly. Taub knew that if House found out what he was going to do House would fire him on the spot. Taub had to make sure no one found him. He left the lights off and closed all the blinds. Taking a small penlight out of his pocket he began to open desk drawers and go through stacks of papers. He had been in the room numerous times when House had mysteriously pulled a bottle of vicodin out from somewhere and now he was trying to find those hidey holes. He searched the desk thoroughly finding only a few old porno magazines and a t-shirt with a picture of Wilson in the student porno film on the front that House hadn’t gotten around to wearing. Taub put everything back in its place, making sure he didn’t set off any booby traps. He moved on to the book shelf and credenza behind the desk. In the bottom cupboard he thought he had hit paydirt when he pulled out a small black bag. It had a stuck snap on it, however, and he had to use quite a bit of force to open it. When he did the snap opened too quickly and Taub lost his grip on the bag. It’s contents exploded out of it and littered the floor. Taub sighed heavily as he realized what they were: condoms, in all colors and flavors but only one size-XXXL. “Sheesh,” Taub muttered under his breath. He quickly gathered up all the foil packages and was stuffing them back into the bag when he heard the door open, the blinds rattling with the motion. Taub ducked down behind the desk and prayed for invisibility. He heard a shuffle of feet begin to come into the room, then stop and walk back out, the door closing again. Taub counted to sixty before he dared to move. He snapped the bag shut, slipped it back into the credenza and then stood up. He turned to go through the cabinet underneath the x-ray light boxes on the wall.
“You don’t actually expect to find any of his stash do you?” asked a voice in the darkness. “He’s been hiding stuff for years. He knows more places to put things then you have time to sneak around too.”
Taub literally jumped two feet in the air. The momentum of his action carried him back into the blinds on the window behind House’s desk. He barely kept on his feet and he clutched his chest with his hands. His breath had disappeared and his heart seemed to not want to function. He whipped around to see who was there. Foreman leaned against the bookshelf by the door, his arms crossed over his chest.
“Foreman…” Taub breathed once his voice returned. “What the hell…?”
“I should be asking you that.”
“I wanted to see what House is on,” explained Taub. He stood up straight and took a few more breaths. His heart was finally beating normally again. “I thought I might find something in here.”
“If House wants something to stay hidden you won’t ever find it,” Foreman stated simply.
“Not necessarily,” Taub defended.
“I worked for him for three years before I realized that the salt shaker above the sink over there held crushed vicodin tablets and not the kosher salt he had labeled it as.”
Taub’s face registered shock. “You used it?”
Foreman nodded. “Best basket of fries I ever had.” He laughed. “House yelled at me for wasting a good day’s worth of pain killers. He took it away and hid it somewhere else. I haven’t seen it since.”
Taub shook his head. “I just want to know. I didn’t make the effort to help Kutner and all my effort to help 13 have failed.” Taub didn’t catch Foreman’s eyebrow raise as he said the last comment. Taub continued. “I know he won’t give me a straight answer and maybe if I knew what he was on or doing I could approach him better. You know, figure out an appropriate strategy.”
Foreman looked at Taub. He was still amazed that someone as big an ass as Gregory House could still create such a sense of loyalty: in Taub; in Chase; in Wilson; and yes, even in himself. He quickly debated letting Taub in on his secret, but decided against it. His own loyalty to House prevented him from spilling the beans. When House wanted people to know about he and Cuddy he would tell them. Foreman stood up. He looked directly at Taub. “You won’t find anything,” he said emphatically. He reached for the door, but turned around before leaving. “Be careful in your search, Taub. No one appreciates a meddler even if he’s doing it to help out.” Foreman saw the realization in Taub’s eyes and was happy to see Taub nod in acceptance. Foreman stepped through the door and held it open for Taub, who shuffled through it, leaving House’s office vacant once again.
House and Cuddy found a parking space right next to the entrance of the restaurant. It helped that it was barely five o’clock; well before any dinner rush. They latched their helmets on the bike and then walked from the bright daylight into the darkened foyer of Gerrardo’s. They let their eyes adjust to the dim light. The hostess approached them just as House spotted Sam and Wilson waving at them from the booth in the far corner of the main dining room.
“Here we go,” House muttered.
“Be nice,” Cuddy responded. “Even if you don’t like her be nice for Wilson’s sake.”
“I have been, but there’s only so much tongue biting I can do.” House smiled at Cuddy. “However, if you were the one biting my tongue I could endure a whole lot more.” He quickly brought his hand up to the small of Cuddy’s back and gave it soft rub before nudging her towards Wilson’s table.
Cuddy smiled and said softly over her shoulder. “Be a good boy and we’ll see.”
House responded with another touch on her back. They walked to the booth and Wilson stood up to greet them. He embraced Cuddy warmly. “I’m truly happy for you two,” he said in Cuddy’s ear. This earned him an extra squeeze from Cuddy. They parted as Wilson made eye contact with House. The two men just nodded at each other, but an entire conversation passed between them in that brief action.
Wilson turned towards Sam, who was sliding out of the booth and moving towards Cuddy. She embraced Cuddy, who was clearly uncomfortable with the intimacy. Just because she was sleeping with one of Cuddy’s oldest and dearest friends didn’t give her BFF status, however, Cuddy politely returned the hug. Sam made no effort to welcome House. She nodded at him and again a silent message was conveyed, this one not nearly as friendly.
“It’s so great to finally meet you, Lisa,” Sam said sincerely. She looked at Wilson. “James tells me stories of the hospital. I loved the drama of the fight with the insurance company. Congrats on the victory.”
Cuddy smiled at Sam. She wasn’t as bad as House had depicted, Cuddy thought. “Thank you,” she said. “It was quite the drama that day, for sure.” Cuddy looked at House with the expression of “I don’t know what’s the big deal with you and her?” House shrugged and raised his eyebrows as if to say, “Just wait.”
“You’re lucky they didn’t call your bluff,” Sam said as she settled back into the booth.
Cuddy stiffened. “Bluff?” House smiled at Cuddy, who was staring at Sam.
“Surely, you wouldn’t have let AtlanticNet cancel the contract?” Sam said innocently, unaware of the feathers she was ruffling. “That’s worth millions to PPTH. There’s no way the board would have kept you in charge and you really can’t afford to lose your job now.”
House was now practically beaming. Cuddy was still processing the “bluff” comment when the last part of Sam’s sentence hit her.
“Can’t afford to lose my job right now?” she said.
“Yeah, you now have that sweet baby to take care of. It’s hard to feed and care for a child when you’re unemployed.” Sam said as she snuggled up next to Wilson, who had just joined her in the booth. Both House and Cuddy still stood, rooted in place.
Sam smiled at her, completely oblivious to the fact that she had managed to call into question not one but two touchy subjects: motherhood and her profession; with one comment. Cuddy could feel her anger rising. She looked at House, who by his mere expression, was all but begging her to get mad. Cuddy decided to switch into her administrator mode and quickly put any emotion and personal opinion in the back of her mind. She smiled sweetly back at Sam.
“You’re right about needing employment, of course,” she said amiably to Sam. Then her voice hardened just a bit. “But I wasn’t bluffing. I was willing to go all the way to ensure that the hospital would get the percentage it deserved.”
There was a crackle in the air. The two women stared at each other, determining if they were going to continue or let it go for the sake of their boyfriends. House watched the two of them and mentally reviewed a place out by the parking lot where there was enough dirt to create a fairly large mud pit.
“Actually, Sam,” Wilson said cautiously. “Lisa was preparing the hospital for the repercussions of losing the contract. And when the deadline passed she was heading to the boardroom to hand in her resignation.” Wilson looked at both women, trying to let the moment diffuse. Wilson saw Sam realize that what she had said had sounded critical and judgemental. Cuddy recognized Wilson’s defense and wondered if Sam would be upset at it. But Sam just shrugged her shoulders, seemingly brushing off the entire conversation.
“Well, whatever,” she said. “You’ve got guts, I’ll give you that.”
House’s shoulders slumped when he realized his plans for a big mud pit would go unused. He glanced at Wilson, who looked like he was relieved he had dodged the bullet. Wimp, thought House. He motioned for Cuddy to slide into the booth. He needed to be on the outside so he could stretch his bad leg out. Cuddy quietly slid into the booth and House followed. They sat and stared at Wilson as the silence lengthened. House ended the silence in a way only he could.
“So, Sam, you all moved into Wilson’s fancy bachelor pad?” he asked. “Is he making you put all your stuff in my old room or did he clear out a drawer for you?”
Sam gave House a cold smile, one that stunned Cuddy. “Actually, James, was nice enough to put some of his things from the master into the second bedroom closet. That bedroom closet has a lingering smell to it and the master closet had a better place to put my dresses.”
“How accommodating,” House muttered as he looked at Wilson.
“You know better than anyone,” Sam replied nastily, staring at House.
Cuddy listened to the exchange in shock. House was right. Sam was a bitch. She seemed so friendly, but had an underlying nastiness that she couldn’t keep from surfacing when she was around House. Cuddy realized then too, that Sam lacked the same brain function that House did: the one that made you stop yourself from saying the first thing that leaped into your brain. The difference between the two, however, was that House had the genius, the credentials and personal connection to back it up so although it oft times irritated her, Cuddy didn’t really take offense at it anymore. And honestly, House’s first thought was usually right on the money. With Sam, however, the trait was not nearly so forgivable. Her comments were entirely based on emotion and personal gain. It proved an underlying selfishness. Wilson said that Sam was trying to make changes, and Cuddy hoped she would succeed. Cuddy would hate to have Wilson beat up again by this woman. She didn’t take too kindly to the way Sam was treating House either right now. But she decided to take her own advice and be nice for Wilson’s sake.
“So, Sam,” Cuddy said conversationally. “You’re a radiologist?”
“Yes,” replied Sam, willing to take the deflection from House. “I work at St. Francis in Trenton. I’ve been there almost two years now.”
“Yeah,” interjected Wilson. “I had no idea she was so close when we reconnected.”
“Might have changed your mind,” mumbled House. Cuddy slapped his leg under the table.
“I’m glad he did get in contact with me,” Sam said. She turned to Wilson and placed her hand on his shoulder. “He was always the one that got away.”
Cuddy’s hand clamped down on House’s good leg, letting him know that he needed to keep his mouth shut. Cuddy fully expected House to begin to rip into Sam in defense of Wilson. She looked around for a closer exit to drag him out of should he get out of control, but surprisingly House complied. He kept his mouth shut. Cuddy rewarded him by passing her hand softly across his leg a few times before bringing her hand back to her own lap in the guise of straitening her napkin.
“Well, James, seems much happier,” was all Cuddy could say.
Sam and Wilson smiled at each other with genuine affection and Cuddy hoped again that this wouldn’t end badly. She also hoped she could keep House in line for another 60 minutes. Wilson deserved that respect from House, even if House may eventually be right about the outcome.
“So, how’s it going for you two?” Sam asked, grasping for another topic of conversation.
“Well, it’s pretty great so far,” Cuddy replied, unwillingly to go into more detail. “It’s been quite a journey, but I’m sure Wilson has told you.”
Sam visibly stiffened at the comment and moved almost imperceptibly away from Wilson. “No, actually, he hasn’t mentioned anything about you two. Apparently, not all subjects are open for sharing and discussion, especially when it comes to House. And you. His loyalty is unwavering. I guess that’s a good trait….” Her voice trailed off and she turned away from Wilson and picked up the menu and looked through the pages.
House turned to Wilson and silently thanked him for keeping all his secrets locked away. Wilson just gave a small nod. Cuddy had a brief pang of guilt as she knew that she hadn’t kept that same confidence in her relationship with Lucas. She ducked her head. She had unloaded one night to Lucas what had happened, or technically what had not happened, between her and House. The moment she had finished she had regretted the decision to break House’s trust, but at the time she thought she’d be in a relationship with Lucas for a long time; that he could be the one, even if she spent most of her time thinking about House. Lucas was the stable one. She had died a thousand deaths when Lucas had told House he knew everything about what had happened. The look of betrayal and sadness that House had given her still haunted her. House turned to Cuddy. He knew she was thinking of her own lack of loyalty, but he had forgiven her of that. He had analyzed her reasons for doing it and had found them plausible. It was now House’s turn to place a hand under the table. He grabbed Cuddy’s hand and squeezed it. She looked up at him and knew by his gaze that he had forgiven her. She returned the squeeze and smiled, but when she tried to take her hand back, House wouldn’t let go. They left their hands locked together under the table.
Wilson looked at his two friends and smiled. Sam sat next to him completely oblivious to anything happening between the three friends. She was still glancing through the menu. The three friends made eye contact with each other. A definite connection passed between them. Sam missed it all, hiding behind her menu and her attitude.
She brought the menu down and wondered out loud her dinner options. The conversation moved along. It was neither antagonistic nor promising, but at least it progressed.
Foreman had just finished replacing the antibiotic drip on Jacob’s IV. Jacob’s stats were still fairly stable. The problem was that he hadn’t improved at all. It was clearly not a UTI that was causing all the problems. He had sent blood work off to the lab, but the computer that analyzed the blood had frozen and his tests were on hold until the technician could repair it. All they could do was wait for something to go wrong.
Foreman looked over at Jacob’s dad, Nathan, who had fallen asleep on the couch. The man hadn’t slept in over 24 hours after having completed a double shift and then being informed by police that his son was in a hospital. Nathan had stayed awake as long as he could, but Jacob was still sedated and eventually Nathan could help nodding off. Foreman let him sleep. He saw the loyalty the father had to his son and wondered what relationship the boy had with his mother. Foreman assumed it was not as strong, simply due to the facts at hand. The mom did not have custody and she had failed to pick him up at the arranged time. The father definitely had the closer bond with the boy. He marked Jacob’s chart with his latest procedures and replaced it at the end of the bed. He turned and headed for the door. It was then he saw a young woman with a frantic look of desperation racing down the hallway from the elevator. He knew instantly that Jacob’s mother had been found.
He quickly stepped out of the room to intercept her before she could burst into the room. He wanted to tell her of her son’s condition first. And he wanted the father to get some more sleep before all hell broke loose.
“Mrs. Peerson?” Foreman asked as the woman neared the bedroom.
“Yes, I’m Annie,” the woman said, clearly frantic. “I need to see my son. Are you his doctor?” She then caught sight of her son in the bed and full-on panic set it. “Oh my,” she breathed. She started to push past Foreman, but he held her back. “Please, I must get to my son.”
“I wanted to talk to you first, Mrs. Peerson,” Foreman said. “Your son is stable at the moment but he’s had a rough time.” Foreman quickly explained all that had happened since Jacob had been picked up by the police: the anaphylactic shock; the blood in the urine and stomach; the cysts; the damaged and extra kidneys; the surgery; and finally the diagnosis of hemihyperplagia that led to the tests now waiting to be run. Annie looked confused at all of it, but came back to the first part.
“Why was Jacob at the police department?” She looked completely baffled.
Foreman felt the need to defend Nathan. “Your ex was called in for an extra shift and the babysitter had to leave early. Jacob was still asleep. You were coming to pick Jacob up in less than 30 minutes so Nathan went to work. “ Foreman saw the look of surprise on Annie’s face. “Look, it seemed a safe idea at the time. Nathan didn’t ever expect you to just not show up. The cops called the phone number Jacob had memorized and were still trying to find you last I heard.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Annie said. “I had set up an interview in western Pennsylvania for a job. Our house is in Morrisville and I’ve been commuting from there to Plainsboro everyday. This job is closer to home and has better insurance so we could let Jacob be at home. I told Nathan two weeks ago about it.”
It was now Foreman’s turn to look surprised. “With all respect that’s not what Nathan is saying. He said that although he has custody, you pick Jacob up every Thursday morning and take him for the weekend.”
“I usually do,” Annie said, now getting angry. “But this morning I had a job interview. I left at 6am. My friend happened to be in my house picking up some movies she loaned me when she heard a Dr. Chase leave a message saying that my son was at Princeton Plainsboro Hospital and to contact them right away. I didn’t have service til I started home and then I came right here.”
Foreman looked closely at Annie. She certainly seemed sincere. Had Nathan actually forgotten about the change in plans? He looked through the big glass windows at Nathan asleep in his son’s room. There was only one way to find out. He indicated for Annie to follow him and the two walked into Jacob’s room to find out what had happened that morning.
Sam and Cuddy were roaring with laughter. Wilson sat at the edge of the bench in the booth at the restaurant. He was definitely not laughing. House was enjoying the attention as he finished telling his story.
“So, I’m still not sure how he got back to the house,” House said, himself trying to speak through his own laughter. “But the duck finally had to be cut out of the street drain and put to sleep. The next day, Wilson got married with a little dab of makeup on his neck to cover the mark.” Cuddy laughed again at this and looked at Wilson. She tried to calm herself down.
“Oh, don’t worry about it, Wilson,” she said. “Something like that could happen to anybody.”
There was a big overwhelming silence as everyone mentally reviewed the story and then they all burst into laughter again.
“Okay, probably not,” Cuddy laughed.
Wilson finally let a smile escape. In the past the story had been mortifying, but time had dulled the embarrassment and Wilson had to admit that it was a pretty funny story. It would be funnier if he wasn’t the main character, however. He was glad that the evening seemed to be going along alright. It started shaky, but Cuddy and even House were trying to make Sam feel like a part of the conversation. He felt grateful his friends cared enough about him to try to make this double date work. Wilson could sense that Sam still felt some hostility and even some jealously towards House and Cuddy, but he hoped she could overcome that. How great would it be if they could all be friends. It seemed too utopian, Wilson knew, but seeing the couple in front of him gave him hope that some things were not always impossible.
Just then a man stepped up to the table. House, thinking he was the waiter, motioned for another round of wine. When there was no response, House looked at the waiter. His smile disappeared when he saw Dr. Harani, chief surgeon at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, staring down at him.
“Well, Doctors House, Wilson and Cuddy,” he said smiling at them. He hated House and thought Cuddy favored him too much, but he liked Wilson enough. He was very curious to see them all here together although he knew the three of them were old friends. It looked an awful lot like a date, however. “Having a night out?”
Cuddy had heard Dr. Harani’s voice before she saw his face. She whipped her head around just in time to see him smiling down at her. This was it, Cuddy thought. Harani already thinks I am House’s servant girl and now House is going to rub it in his face. Of all the people to find out about them first why did it have to be Harani. He hated House and he didn’t think well of Cuddy when it came to House’s behavior; or actually the lack of discipline on House’s behavior. Cuddy’s mind started scrambling for a plausible story.
House felt Cuddy tense beside him. He knew that Cuddy was mortified Harani would figure out what was going on. House was smart enough to realize that her feelings weren’t because of the relationship with him but actually what people would think of the relationship with him. To be honest, House expected most of the hospital thought they were already sleeping together, the past announcement from the balcony aside, and that the majority of every other hospital employee expected them to eventually sleep together. Still, House would do what he could to keep his promise to Cuddy. He knew what he had to do. He had to piss Harani off.
“Dr. Harani,” he said, leaning back against the booth. “I knew you didn’t get paid as well as other chief of staffs at the hospital, but I didn’t think it was so bad you had to wait tables to make ends meet.”
Harani, who had been dissecting the scene before him, now turned all of his attention to House. Ironically, Harani, in his white shirt, tie and black slacks, was dressed like the other wait staff in the restaurant. All he needed was the green apron around the waist and an order book. “I’m here with my wife, House,” he growled.
House smiled. “Seriously, Cuddy, can’t you give the guy a small raise. He even needs to have his wife wait tables to pay the bills these days. She sounds like a real team player. I’d love to meet her.” House pretending to scan the room in search of the table waiting Mrs. Harani. “Sorry, but you’ll have to point her out. I don’t see anyone claiming to know you.”
Cuddy knew what House was doing. It was House’s way of being gallant. It was endearing, in its own warped way, but she didn’t want further bad blood between the two. After all they had to play in the same sandbox most days of the week.
“Dr. House,” she said in her best board room tone of voice. “Dr. Harani doesn’t need to put up with your abuse off-the-clock as well.” She turned to Harani. “Thanks for stopping by, Dave. Say hi to Vicki for me, will you?” Cuddy hoped to see Harani nod and turn away but he was still glaring at House.
“So, Dr. Cuddy,” Harani said, still staring at House. “Why are you putting up with the abuse off-the-clock?” He turned towards Cuddy, awaiting an answer. She had none.
This time it was Wilson who came to the rescue. “They agreed to come to dinner to meet my new girlfriend, well, actually, my ex-wife, whom I’m dating again. Dr. Harani, this is Samantha Carr. She’s a radiologist at St. Francis. Didn’t you intern there?” Wilson was putting on his best flustered boy-next-door act for extra effect. “I invited Dr. Cuddy to come to help lessen the House effect.”
Harani was at least polite and made the effort of saying hello to Sam and confirming that he had interned at St. Francis. She nodded at him as well. Harani could understand the need to have Cuddy there to handle things for House. She’d been doing it for years on the job. Harani felt bad she was asked to do after work as well.
“Well, thanks for stopping by,” Wilson said.
“Okay, thought I’d say hello,” Harani said, now not wanting to look like an idiot in front of Sam. He nodded to all of them, except House, and turned and walked off.
Wilson and Cuddy breathed a collective sigh of relief. House just called Harani a name. “Thanks for protecting my honor,” Cuddy said to Wilson and House. “Harani is the last one I want to know about….all this,” she finished lamely.
“Why bother with the secrecy?” Sam asked. “There’s no policy from dating co-workers or even underlings. Why worry?”
There was a pause. “There’d be too much… I’d have to…,” Cuddy stammered.
“ It’s easier this way,” Wilson suggested softly.
“Yeah, looks like it,” Sam snarked, clearly not thinking it was.
House looked at Cuddy. He could see she was done for the evening. He wanted to say something to ease her stress but didn’t know what words would do that. Just then his phone in his pocket started singing the “MMMBop” song and he knew his team had something new to tell him. He pulled it out of his pocket answering it.
“Yeah,” he said. He paused to listen. “Okay.” He hung up and put his phone back in his pocket. He slid out of the booth and stood by the table. “That was Foreman. Jacob’s mom showed up finally. They are getting the medical history now for Jacob. Might not be relevant now as the kid’s starting to have seizures.”
The group had talked briefly about Jacob and his situation earlier in the evening.
“Did she say why she didn’t show up?” Wilson asked before Cuddy could get the question out.
“Apparently she wasn’t supposed to show up at all. She had a job interview and had told the dad about it two weeks ago. He messed up the dates.”
“So, she didn’t bail out or forget about him?” Cuddy asked.
“Yeah, see I was right. He did have a parent who still cared,” House said. “I need to get back to the hospital so I need to take Cuddy home now.” He looked at Cuddy. “Unless you want to ride home with Wilson. He’s got a boring ol’ sedan, but I’d understand it if you can’t handle the machine again.”
Wilson smiled. “You came here on the back of House’s bike?” he asked Cuddy.
Cuddy looked embarrassed to be caught acting like a college student, but she nodded. She looked up at House. “I’d actually love to ride back with you, but it might be safer if I go with Wilson and Sam. Less talk….”
Both Cuddy and Wilson caught the disappointment and rejection that flashed in House’s eyes. They both hoped House knew Cuddy wasn’t embarrassed of being with him, just concerned, but Cuddy’s rejection still had to have sliced away a bit at House’s self-esteem. But House shrugged his shoulders and feigned indifference.
“Suit yourself,” he said. He didn’t see a need to keep things quiet, but still respected Cuddy’s feelings towards it. Although a part of him knew that if she dating Wilson she may not have been so concerned with keeping the relationship a secret.
Wilson reached out and grabbed House’s arm. “Let us know if you need anything.” It wasn’t just an offer for medical assistance and House knew it.
“Sure will,” House replied, knowing he’d ride this bump out by himself.
House turned to leave, but made one last comment. “Oh, and Sam, that was a good idea asking us all out to eat. Thanks for picking up the tab.” He took one last lingering look at Cuddy and then limped out the door to his bike. He didn’t think of anything else but Cuddy’s decision to not let him take her home the whole ride to the hospital and arrived there without ever remembering which route he took.
Okay, one more chapter coming your way in the fan-isode. Thanks for being patient! I love those reviews.